Ronnie’s big interview ahead of the 2021 English Open – Part 4

This last part of Ronnie’s big interview is about “snooker politics”

RONNIE O’SULLIVAN ON ‘CAR CRASH’ POLITICS IN SPORT – ‘SNOOKER BECAME A BIT TOXIC IN MANY WAYS’

“I emotionally untangled myself from the sport probably 10 years ago, in many ways, and I just made snooker work for me,” O’Sullivan told Eurosport in a special extended interview ahead of the English Open. “I hear a lot of the bottom-ranked players complaining about various things, and the top-ranked players complaining about things; like I said, I feel like snooker became a bit toxic.”

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Ronnie O’Sullivan has opened up about how he felt that ‘snooker became a bit toxic in many ways’ and the level of involvement he now wants to have within the sport.

The 45-year-old, who would love to win a seventh world title in his illustrious career, has spoken candidly about his frustrations with getting involved in the politics of the sport and his current detachment from it.

In 2018, O’Sullivan claimed that he was “ready to go” to form a breakaway “Champions League-style” snooker tour after he said he was unhappy with the number of events on the regular calendar and the travelling required.

Despite saying that he wanted to make positive changes at one point, The Rocket has said that he “emotionally untangled myself from the sport”, and is now happy with just doing his own thing.

To be honest, I emotionally untangled myself from the sport probably 10 years ago, in many ways, and I just made snooker work for me,” O’Sullivan told Eurosport in a special extended interview ahead of the English Open.

There was a time where I thought things could be done differently and would be beneficial to everybody on the tour. But when you never got the support of your other players, I just kind of went, ‘You know what, it’s never going to happen‘.

SO NOW, WHEN I HEAR A LOT OF THE BOTTOM-RANKED PLAYERS COMPLAINING ABOUT VARIOUS THINGS, AND THE TOP-RANKED PLAYERS COMPLAINING ABOUT THINGS; LIKE I SAID, I FEEL LIKE SNOOKER BECAME A BIT TOXIC IN MANY WAYS.

O’Sullivan conceded that, while he wanted to make changes, he did not feel as though he could do what he wanted and so has decided to simply see playing snooker as his “hobby” and “as fun”.

There was no unity and we all couldn’t try and get what’s right for all the players,” he said. “So I decided to kind of like disentangle myself from snooker, and it’s better that sort of way because now I do all my other stuff with all my sponsors and that’s all great.

I kind of see that as what I do for a living, if you like, and I enjoy to do that, and I just play snooker as a hobby, as fun. I enjoy playing, but by doing that I don’t want to have an opinion.

I don’t want to feel like this can be changed and, in many ways – and it’s probably not good thing – I hope it actually sometimes gets worse, because I think sometimes you can see the car crash happening. But unless people want to sort of unite, I suppose in many ways, then the car crash will just keep on continuing to happen.

I’d rather not be emotionally involved in that, because I’ve got the utmost respect for any snooker player that plays on the tour, and you’re just fighting for them in many ways. But at some point you’ve kind of got to go, ‘It’s not working, I’m better off just being quite tunnel vision about what’s right for me and doing what’s right for me, and just taking the best bits from it’.

I’ve never been so happy, really, because I love snooker and I love playing, but it wouldn’t be good for me to get involved in the politics or even having an opinion on what I think would be good for the game because it’s pretty pointless, really.”

So, Ronnie is disillusioned about “snooker politics”. Surely he’s not alone. In the past he has often spoken against the views of the governing body, and been accused of “hurting” his sport. He has not always been right, but he has not always been wrong either, far from it. Some fans are convinced that he hates his sport, and he has said that he hates snooker a number of times in the past. But then, he has suffered, still suffers,  from mood swings and severe bouts of depression and I guess that when he is in the middle of a “low” he probably hates everything about his life…

The truth however is that he loves his sport, as Alan McManus explained during his interview with Phil Haigh and Nick Metcalfe:

Alan McManus reveals the side of Ronnie O’Sullivan he’s ‘lucky to see’ behind the scenes

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Ronnie O’Sullivan (Picture: Getty Images)

Alan McManus has the pleasure of working with Ronnie O’Sullivan in their roles as television pundits, and while the Scot knows when to ‘back off and not engage’ he says he is lucky to see the Rocket hugely passionate about the game he loves.

McManus and O’Sullivan were colleagues in the Eurosport studio at the Northern Ireland Open in Belfast earlier this month after the Rocket was beaten by Yan Bingtao in the last 16.

Earlier in the tournament O’Sullivan had criticised the atmosphere at the Waterfront Hall in Belfast, saying he was ‘very bored’ and he ‘wasn’t really bothered he he won or lost,’ after beating Andy Hicks in round two.

Angles says that when the six-time world champion is in that kind of mood, he chooses to just leave him to it, although he then gets to see the other side of O’Sullivan later in the event.

The Rocket went from downbeat to quite perky after he was eliminated from the tournament and McManus had a great experience with him as they watched the climax of the event.

McManus told the Talking Snooker podcast: ‘Sometimes, I think if he’s in that sort of mood and he doesn’t want to engage in a positive way about the snooker or whatever he’s talking about, I just think, “I’ll back off and not engage with him.”

If he doesn’t want to talk about it he’s not gonna.

The flip side of that, of course, is when he’s really up for it. I’ll say this…later in the week, Ronnie had lost, so he had a couple of days in the studio.

We were watching the matches and he’s into it, he loves it. John [Higgins] was doing some special things and he was loving it, he loves the game.

‘I’m lucky I get to see that side of things and he really loves it.

McManus also enjoyed O’Sullivan’s humble side, surprised to see the 37-time ranking event winner asking how players pulled off shots that surely he could also manage.

We sit and have a laugh when somebody plays a good shot. It’s actually ridiculous because he’s rolling about laughing after a good shot, going: “How did he do that?

World Snooker Championship - Day 14
Alan McManus (Picture: Getty Images)

But you think, well…oh, it doesn’t matter Ronnie. But he’s a snooker fan. He’s engaging, he can be a bit up and down, but who can’t in other ways?

Ronnie chooses to be a bit up and down in press things or on camera or whatever but at the end of the day he’s a big snooker fan and he loves it, and why not? He’s quite good.

He’s a good guy, he’s alright, you know. I really like him.’

 

Ronnie’s big interview ahead of the 2021 English Open – Part 3

Ronnie spoke to Eurosport about who is currently at the top of the sport and where the “class of 92” now stands

RONNIE O’SULLIVAN: ‘LIKE ROGER FEDERER AND RAFAEL NADAL’ – THE ROCKET ON THE ‘TWO DIVISIONS’ IN SNOOKER ELITE

“I would probably narrow it down into maybe two divisions now,” O’Sullivan told Eurosport in a special extended interview ahead of the English Open. “I think you’d have to say Selby, Trump and possibly Robertson, you could say that they are the three strongest players. I think outside of that, then you put me, John Higgins and Mark Williams, just because of the age.”

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Ronnie O’Sullivan Image credit: Eurosport

Ronnie O’Sullivan has claimed that there are two divisions at the top of snooker’s elite and identified the big-name players who fit in each category.

The 45-year-old, who has six world titles to his name, had himself in the second division, along with fellow legends John Higgins and Mark Williams, while he said Judd Trump, Mark Selby and Neil Robertson were in the top tier.

The Rocket compared himself, Higgins and Williams to tennis greats Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal in terms of still being able to compete at the top level despite no longer being in their prime years.

I would probably narrow it down into maybe two divisions now,” O’Sullivan told Eurosport in a special extended interview ahead of the English Open.
“I think you’d have to say Selby, Trump and possibly Robertson, you could say that they are the three strongest players. I think outside of that, then you put me, John Higgins and Mark Williams, just because of the age.

Because at my age now, if I win a tournament, or at least put my heart and soul into it, it takes me three or four days just to sort of recover again to be able to go again. Whereas maybe seven, eight years ago I could win the World Championship and then wake up the next day and think, ‘I could do that again’.

You know, and as you get older, you don’t have the powers of concentration or sustainability. So I think those three are in their prime and once you hit 43, 44 it gets a lot harder.

WE’VE KIND OF BEEN OKAY, BECAUSE WE CAME FROM THAT SPECIAL ERA WHERE, LIKE FEDERER AND NADAL, 70% IS STILL GOOD ENOUGH TO COMPETE.

I think that is what is getting us by at the moment, but I don’t know how much longer that can go on for.

So I think I would probably break that down into two divisions: Selby, Trump, Robertson – just because of their age, not because of their ability to play the game, but just that they’re able to concentrate and recover one match after another a lot better than say, me, Williams or Higgins would.

O’Sullivan also had his say on the tournaments that really matter to him and made it abundantly clear that the World Championship remains the pinnacle and worth “five mediocre events” in his mind.

The Triple Crowns, they are the three big tournaments, that is where the most pressure is. That is where the top players usually thrive and they never change, a bit like the Masters [golf], the four majors, you can always judge Jack Nicklaus with Tiger Woods because of the amount of majors.

JUDD WOULD SWAP – I KNOW HE WOULD SWAP – WITH SELBY BECAUSE THE WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP IS THE ONE THAT EVERYBODY WANTS TO WIN.  

There is of course a lot of truth in there… no matter what Judd Trump says.

Despite Ronnie’s perception that he is now in “second division”, Alan Mc Manus still rates him as the best player of all times.

Alan McManus names his top six snooker players of all time: ‘As far as the greatest, obviously Ronnie is’

Alan McManus at the Coral Northern Ireland Open 2016.
Alan McManus has picked out the best to ever play snooker (Picture: Getty Images)

Alan McManus feels that Ronnie O’Sullivan is ‘obviously’ the greatest snooker player of all time, but Stephen Hendry’s achievements should not be forgotten and they are unlikely to ever be repeated.

O’Sullivan is regularly named as the greatest player to ever pick up a cue, although there are still some votes from people in the sport for Hendry and John Higgins.

McManus is in the Rocket’s camp on this one, but is blown away by both his fellow Scots, who he feels come in at joint-second on his GOAT list.

Time’s a great healer of memory, people forget about Stephen and the things he did,’ McManus told the Talking Snooker podcast.

First of all, when’s the next time someone’s going to win the Masters at the first five goes? It’s easy to forget.

Who’s going to win the Crucible five times on the spin? Probably no one, it ain’t going to happen. But he did it and he did it because he was unbelievably good.

John’s a different kind of good, he’s got the whole package, technically he’s unbelievably good, but the other thing that John developed was the snooker brain, it’s like a chess Grand Master or a piano player, it just makes sense to him.

When you’ve got that technique and that bottle, there’s no weakness, he’s very difficult to handle.

As far as the greatest, obviously Ronnie is, I’d put Stephen and John almost shoulder-to-shoulder.’

Most ranking title wins

Ronnie O’Sullivan 37
Stephen Hendry 36
John Higgins 31
Steve Davis 28
Mark Williams 24
Judd Trump 22
Neil Robertson 20
Mark Selby 20
Ding Junhui 14

Angles was pretty clear on an O’Sullivan, Higgins and Hendry top three, and slotted in Steve Davis at number four fairly confidently, but struggled to split the two names he has battling for fifth spot.

For me…oo dear this is very difficult,’ said McManus on rounding off his top five. ‘I would say those three then Steve Davis has got to be in there, for many reasons I won’t go into.

Then probably Mark Selby and Mark Williams, one of those two.

Probably Mark Williams maybe, just because he’s been around longer but I don’t know. I’m sure that everyone of them are glad to be in the shake-up.

Mark Selby and Mark Williams at the Betfred World Snooker Championships.
Mark Selby beat Mark Williams en route to a fourth world title this year (Picture: Getty Images).

By ranking titles, Williams beats Selby by 24-20, but the Englishman has picked up four World Championship titles to the Welshman’s four.

Selby has also picked up one more Masters title than the Welsh Potting Machine, but longevity, of course, goes to Williams.

The veteran won his first ranking title at the Welsh Open in 1996 and his most recent one in August this year at the British Open.

The Jester from Leicester achieved up his first ranking triumph 12 years after Williams’ first, with his most recent coming at the Crucible in May when he won a fourth world title.

I know someone who isn’t probably too happy because he’s not even in the conversation…

Ronnie’s big interview ahead of the 2021 English Open – Part 2

Here is another topic discussed by Ronnie in his big interview, this time reported by Phil Haigh

Ronnie O’Sullivan claims nine-ball pool is his ‘little secret’ to snooker success

Ronnie O'Sullivan at the Betfred World Snooker Championship.
Ronnie O’Sullivan reckons an unlikely source has been behind some of his snooker success (Picture: Getty Images)

Ronnie O’Sullivan has revealed that playing pool is ‘a little secret’ behind some of his snooker success and has encouraged players of all cue sports to take up a variety of disciplines.

The Rocket has a bit of history with nine-ball pool, playing for Team Europe in the 1996 Mosconi Cup, and he says that the smaller table has helped him to his unprecedented levels of success in snooker.

The six-time world champion and 37-time ranking event winner says that pool practice is his ‘little secret’ to finding his best form on the snooker table, and hes explained why.

‘It is a little secret I let people in on, I actually played some of my best snooker because I played nine-ball pool,” O’Sullivan told Eurosport.

You are playing on a smaller table and trying to pot a ball over 12 foot is a lot – a long ball over 12 foot is quite a hard thing to do. But when you get an a pool table, you start potting long balls on a nine-foot table, it’s just like, you stop fearing the long distance as much.

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O’Sullivan won a sixth World Snooker Championship title in 2020 (Picture: Getty Images)

In some ways, you have to use different techniques on the pool table, which you can then bring to the snooker table.

I think I learned a lot and played some of my best snooker through playing nine-ball pool.’

The 45-year-old has advised players of various cue sports to have a crack at other disciplines so they can develop their games most effectively.

I always think there is a good crossover between playing a bit of nine-ball pool, a bit of billiards and a bit of snooker. Because there are crossovers,’ he continued.

It’s like being a pool player, a lot of pool players would be better pool players, if they had played a bit more snooker because it would tighten their technique up a bit.

This is not so secret. Players of the past often played both billiards and snooker for instance, and some old-school coaches still advice the debutants to try themselves at billiards, as it’s a good way to learn how to control the cue ball, and how angles, spin and trajectories work. Some of Jimmy White’s signature shots are billiards shots.

 

 

Ronnie’s big interview ahead of the 2021 English Open – Part 1

Eurosport did a long interview with Ronnie, ahead of the coming English Open and they have publised several “teaser pieces” touching on various themes that they discussed with the six times World Champion. Here goes for part 1

Please read with an open mind beyond the headlines and up to the last line before reacting and commenting.

About the youngsters on the tour

RONNIE O’SULLIVAN ‘BAFFLED’ BY ‘EGOS’ OF SNOOKER’S NEXT GEN – ‘THEY BELIEVE IN THEMSELVES A BIT TOO MUCH’

Some of the people I see on the tour, I wonder how they actually got there. Where do they find them, you know?” O’Sullivan told Eurosport in a special extended interview ahead of the English Open. “They are very inexperienced, they probably believe in themselves a bit too much for how good they are, and that can be a dangerous thing.

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Ronnie O’Sullivan has explained why he is so ‘baffled’ by the next generation of snooker players arriving in the sport, and believes a lot of the issues stem from ego and a false sense of self-belief.

The 45-year-old, who has six world titles to his name, has long since doubted the credentials of the younger stars emerging without having much experience in the amateur or youth ranks before hitting the professional circuit.

O’Sullivan has admitted that he has not been overly impressed with the crop coming through and has observed that “they probably believe in themselves a bit too much for how good they are“.

There are a lot of good players, but I think the problem with snooker now is the issue that I see with a lot of players,” O’Sullivan told Eurosport in a special extended interview ahead of the English Open.

They come in, they haven’t really had an amateur or junior background and they turn professional and the ego kicks in: ‘I’m a professional playing Mark Williams in the first round’, and they’re not really that good.

With some of these guys, they just turn up now because it’s open to anybody, really. They get peppered for the whole year and it’s very hard to then kind of like squash that ego.

[Looking back] I think when you’re a kid, week-in, week-out, playing pro-ams, you might be in one week and you got beat the next two or three weeks and your ego was kept in check because you had a respect for the game and the players and the level to play at.

SOME OF THE PEOPLE I SEE ON THE TOUR, I WONDER HOW THEY ACTUALLY GOT THERE. WHERE DO THEY FIND THEM, YOU KNOW?

They have no experience at amateur or junior level in some instances… honestly, I don’t know. It baffles me. That’s one of the reasons I don’t watch it.

I do watch a lot of snooker but I don’t watch the modern day snooker because I think years ago, when you were a pro, you had earned the right to be a pro and basically had earned your stripes. Whereas now it’s just open to anybody. So yeah, it’s a tricky one. It is what it is.

I think me, [Mark] Williams and [John] Higgins, we’re already past our best, you know, physically, mentally, we’re not the players we probably were six, seven, eight, 10, 15 years ago, there’s no chance.

But what we do have is the experience, the pedigree, the ability to have faith in our ability; we haven’t come from this privileged sort of background, we’ve kind of had to go through the junior, the amateur circuit, we’ve had to be beaten, our egos put into place.

So that kind of creates a character for a player, if you like, and the character that Williams and Higgins have got has come from a culmination of putting themselves through the hard yards.

Today, there are a lot of players that are really good players, but they haven’t got that foundation, they haven’t gone through those stages to make them a player that’s going to be around for a long time.

THEY ARE VERY INEXPERIENCED, THEY PROBABLY BELIEVE IN THEMSELVES A BIT TOO MUCH FOR HOW GOOD THEY ARE, AND THAT CAN BE A DANGEROUS THING.

I’d rather be a player that thinks he’s not as good as he actually is, whereas on the tour now you get a lot of players that think they’re better than they actually are, and that for me is the problem. Because that is a dangerous way of thinking, and you can only get true character if you have experienced all levels of the game and appreciate it.

So in many ways, I think Higgins and Williams and me are around just because of that pedigree, not because we’re the best or we’re the youngest or the fittest, just that we’ve got a bit more to fall back on in many ways.

I’m not sure why Ronnie (still) believes that the game is open to anybody, because even if that was the case when he turned pro,  it’s no more like that and it hasn’t been like that for a very long time.

Other than that, I think that he’s mainly right in his assesment, but what he fails to do, is to reflect and point out how and why we got to this situation. 

The core of the problem is indeed that the amateur game has gone backwards, whilst, at the top, the professional game is stronger than ever. The gap between amateurs and top professionals has widened.

There are many reasons for that and Barry Hearn is partly responsible for creating this situation. Let me explain.

When the “class of 92” turned pro the game was indeed open to anybody able and willing to pay a fee to become a professional. It was however a recent situation, the game was “opened” in 1991. This means that, until 1991, players like Ken Doherty and Peter Ebdon, for instance, were amateurs, despite being better that most of the professionals at the time. The amateur scene was massive, with lots of quality events. Ronnie and Mark Williams have often spoken about how they were playing every week in amateur events, and they were quality events. As juniors, they had the opportunity to play the likes of Doherty, Ebdon, Parrott … and they learned a lot from them.

It’s all diffrent now, and the young amateurs are mainly playing amongst themselves, never or very rarely exposed to the level of the professional game. The best of them dominate that amateur scene and indeed may, and actually often will, develop a perception that they are amongst the best, something that transpires in their quotes, right after earning their first tour card. They are the best, but only in their peers’ group. The professiomal circuit is something else entirely and they are not prepared for it, neither “technically”, nor mentally.

They are not helped by the way the system has been shaped by Barry Hearn. Since the disappearence of the tiered system, there is no progressivity, no development path. All of a sudden, from being serial winners amongst the amateurs, they become serial losers amongst the pros. It’s hard, it hurts, and many – I would even say most – go from being over-confident to being completely dispirited, depressed and feeling worthless. A return to the tiered system is needed, maybe not in all events, but in most.

It doesn’t help them either that they struggle badly financially. The whole “rewarding” system is far too top heavy. I have written this before, and I will write it again here: you need two to play a match of snooker, by playing both players bring value to the tournament, the sponsors, the venue, the broadcaster, WST and the watching fans. They deserve something for their work. They are professionals. At the very minimum, doing their job should not cost them. First round losers should get paid at least enough to cover their basic “professional” expenses.

Barry Hearn also has a responsibilities in the decline of the amateur scene. There are several factors to consider here.

First, when he created the PTCs, that were actually pro-ams, it attracted a lot of amateurs, lured by the prospect of meeting and playing the best in the world, and the possiblity to gain a tour car via this route. As far as I remember, the latter never happened. Playing in those PTCs was not cheap, it was also time consuming. As a result, other pro-ams, some of them with a long history, were disregarded and many disappeared. When the PTCs were ditched, they didn’t re-appear…

Next, Worldsnooker/WST negotiated contracts with top broadcasters, and we have more snooker on our screens than ever. I’m not complaining about that. However, I believe that things went too far when it comes to “exclusive rights”. When a charity event, happening in the middle of the summer, with no pro event on, is asked to stop streaming the one main table because they were not granted permission by Worldsnooker, and participating pros would be in breach of contract… something is not right. When qualifiers for the Seniors tour – that can do with as much exposure it can get – are restricted to stream matches for the same reason something is not right, especially when WST itself has agreed on the right for older lower ranked pros to play in these events. Surely a more reasonable agreement on these issues can be negotiated with broadcasters? Because, in this age of  ubiquitous social media, being able to stream is a key factor in any amateur event prospect to succeed and survive.

And finally, on a normal year, the professional calendar is so full, with so little down-time in the summert that pros have neither the time, nor the energy to participate in pro-ams anymore. This renders these pro-ams less attractive, to both the public and the amateur players, but more importantly, it also means that they no more provide the amateurs competing in them the opportunity to pit themselves against pros and learn from that experience.

Don’t get me wrong, Barry Hearn worked wonders for snooker and I’m grateful for it, but not everything he did was right. The only people who are always right are those who do nothing. But when something isn’t right, and problems are identified, changes are needed.

And, one last point that I won’t discuss again here, but will still mention: the main professional qualifying route, the Q-School is inadequate.

 

 

Ronnie speaks to Eurosport as he is at the start of his 30th season as a pro

Here is the interview:

RONNIE O’SULLIVAN ON 30 YEARS AT TOP – ‘I FEEL PRIVILEGED TO HAVE HAD THE OPPORTUNITIES

Six-times world champion Ronnie O’Sullivan will celebrate an astonishing 30 years at the summit of snooker in 2022. The sport’s greatest player has told Eurosport he appreciates the opportunities he has been given in life since turning professional at the age of 16 in 1992. He is also thankful for the support of his partner Laila Rouass and family as he continues to chase new horizons in the game.

Ronnie O’Sullivan will celebrate 30 years at the summit of professional snooker in January, but the game’s greatest player admits he has been fortunate to have been afforded the opportunities in life to reach green baize utopia.

The six-times world champion holds the vast majority of the key records as he begins his 30th season ranked at number three in the world, but it his speed, flamboyance and precision of play that has attracted millions of bewitched fans to the sport over the past four decades.

The numbers stacked up by O’Sullivan are quite astonishing since he set out on his unprecedented golden sojourn at the age of 16 in 1992.

  • 37 – most ranking titles won by any player in history achieved in claiming 2020 World Championship
  • 15 – record number of maximums made in competition
  • Five minutes and eight seconds – fastest competitive maximum compiled at 1997 World Championship
  • 17 years and 358 days – youngest winner of a ranking event at 1993 UK Championship
  • 19 years and 69 days – youngest winner of the Masters in 1995
    1000 – first player to reach 1,000 career centuries at 2019 Players Championship
  • 29 – record number of consecutive appearances at World Championship between 1993 and 2021
  • 58 – record number of ranking final appearances achieved at 2021 Tour Championship final
  • 556 – record number of points scored without reply in 6-0 win over Ricky Walden in 2014 Masters quarter-final lasting 58min 31sec
  • 7 – record number of UK titles
  • 7 – record number of Masters titles
  • 20 – record number of triple crown titles

O’Sullivan made his first century at the age of 10 and his first 147 five years later, but shows no signs of slowing up with Judd Trump recently predicting that he has another decade at the top if he has the desire to continue.

I feel privileged to have had the opportunities that I’ve had,” O’Sullivan told Eurosport.

SO I CAN’T SAY THAT I’VE BEEN UNLUCKY. I’VE OBVIOUSLY HAD TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THOSE PRIVILEGES, BUT THEY WERE GIVEN TO ME AND I’VE PROBABLY HAD A MUCH BETTER HEAD START THAN A LOT OF YOUNG KIDS.

“I was fortunate that my mum and dad did okay for themselves and were able to pay for my cab fares to the club, my table time and allow me to go away at weekends to play in competitions.

“Some kids don’t have that luxury. I think in that respect, I had a good opportunity, but had to make the most of it.

O’Sullivan admits one of the career highlights was celebrating lifting his sixth world title alongside his partner Laila Rouass at the Crucible after an 18-8 win over Kyren Wilson in the final.

We had such a good night,” he recalled. “After the final, we went back to the hotel, there was about 30 or 40 people in the hotel.

We had a fantastic evening. It was probably the best night I’ve ever had.

WE HAD KEBABS, BEER AND SAT OUTSIDE UNTIL ABOUT FOUR IN THE MORNING. (FORMER WORLD NUMBER TWO) TONY KNOWLES WAS THERE AND A FEW OF MY FRIENDS FROM LIVERPOOL WERE DOWN. WE HAD SUCH A LAUGH. I’VE LOVED TO ABLE TO EXPERIENCE THAT AGAIN.

That’s a really lovely interview and Ronnie seems to be in a good place. Hopefully this season is a good one.

Build-up to the Crucible – “The Break” Eurosport potcast

Eurosport is back with “the Break”

You can listen to the last instalment here:

 

And here is the written account about it what Ronnie thinks about the possible Crucible favourites and his own game:

 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP -‘HE’S LIKE A MICHEL ROUX CAKE’ – RONNIE O’SULLIVAN ON ‘FRIGHTENING’ ROBERTSON

His game is built to do well in Sheffield and over the years he’s added to his game and now he’s taken over from John Higgins as the player with the best all-around game. He plays safety very well, his temperament is brilliant, his scoring is unbelievable, his potting is just frightening, I’ve never seen anyone with a cue action as good as that.

Ronnie O’Sullivan is in a relaxed mood ahead of the defence of his World Championship title, but believes Neil Robertson is the biggest obstacle to him winning at the Crucible for a seventh time.

The 45-year-old ended a seven-year wait for a sixth world title when beating Kyren Wilson in the final, but he has not won an event since that victory in August.
O’Sullivan has lost five successive finals, the most recent being at the hands of Neil Robertson in the Tour Championship.

He was comfortably second best to Robertson at Celtic Manor, and feels the Australian is favourite for the World Championship which gets underway on April 17.

What happens at Sheffield is that when you get on a good run you seem to just win matches every year,” O’Sullivan said on Eurosport’s The Break podcast.

It comes like a run in itself but then it can go the other way as well.

I think [John] Higgins didn’t make a quarter-final for seven or eight years. You could have got any price you want down the bookies on that. I did the same from 2013 to 2021, I didn’t make a semi-final.

Robertson is the same. I think every player goes through a little phase like that in their career at Sheffield where they just don’t seem to be able to make the final stages.

I think at some point that will change for Neil and when it does I think you’ll see him win one, get to a final, maybe three finals on the spin.

His game is built to do well in Sheffield and over the years he’s added to his game and now he’s taken over from John Higgins as the player with the best all-around game. He plays safety very well, his temperament is brilliant, his scoring is unbelievable, his potting is just frightening, I’ve never seen anyone with a cue action as good as that.

SO, IF YOU’RE MAKING A CAKE AND PUTTING ALL THAT INTO IT YOU’RE GOING TO COME OUT WITH A ‘MICHEL ROUX’ CAKE AND THINK, ‘WOW, THAT TASTES AMAZING’.

O’Sullivan has shown patches of brilliance this season, but has not found form in the finals he has contested.

I’m not nervous at all,” he said. “I’ve had a great season. I’ve enjoyed playing. Everything is really good.

I go to a tournament like ‘have I got my running boots with me? Yeah OK great. Have I got my restaurants sorted? Yeah, great.

I CAN DEAL WITH THE SNOOKER, WHATEVER IT THROWS AT ME I’M ALRIGHT BECAUSE I’VE GOT THOSE TWO THINGS IN PLACE SO THE SNOOKER BECOMES SOMETHING I JUST DO BECAUSE I’M THERE. IF I PLAY GREAT, BRILLIANT!

I’m super-enthusiastic about playing, and continuing, and trying to go as far as I can in the tournament.

If I’m not playing great, I know I’m not a grinder and there’s no point me doing what Jimmy [White] seems to be doing which is trying to grind it out, take my time, get focused and over-practice.

You won’t see me on the practice tables before a match ever because I don’t want to know how I’m playing ten minutes before I go out there. I’d rather find out when I’m there.

With that kind of attitude, it’s a lot easier to deal with because otherwise it becomes tough. It’s a tough sport anyway so you have to find that happy medium.

I feel alright to be honest with you. It’s no secret; it’s not my favourite tournament. Last year it was a bit better because there was not so much smothering going on. So I enjoyed last year and this year has been OK. I’m looking forward to Sheffield but also looking forward to a bit of a break at the end of it.”

Commenting on the state of his game heading into the Crucible, O’Sullivan said: “I came back in the New Year, I took three or four weeks off after that, and I’ve enjoyed my snooker up until the Welsh [Open] when [John] Higgins gave me a good hiding.

But I’ve enjoyed the best of three tournaments, I’ve enjoyed playing and just seeing where my game’s at. Every tournament hasn’t been about winning it’s been about ‘where’s my game now compared to last week?’ ‘I’ve taken three weeks off now, I wonder where it is compared to three weeks ago. OK not too bad.’

SO BECAUSE I WAS PLAYING A BIT MORE REGULARLY I WASN’T AT AS MUCH OF A DISADVANTAGE WHEN I WAS PLAYING. BEFORE I’D TAKE SIX OR SEVEN WEEKS OFF AND MISS SIX OR SEVEN TOURNAMENTS. WHEN I DID COME BACK IT TOOK ME THREE OR FOUR TOURNAMENTS TO EVEN HAVE A CHANCE TO COMPETE REALLY.

It’s been a nice year in a way because I feel like I’ve had half a chance when I’ve played.

Ronnie also gives his opinion on the Jimmy White vs Stephen Hendry match. It was a horrible draw for Jimmy who puts too much pressure of himself, as Stephen Hendy himself reckons.

And a bit of video…

Ronnie discusses why snooker players are particularly exposed to depression

In an exclusive interview with Desmond Kane, Ronnie explains why snooker players are particularly exposed to depression, how to manage it and about his desire to help others.

RONNIE O’SULLIVAN EXCLUSIVE: ‘CAN YOU JUSTIFY FEELING LIKE S***?’ – WHY DEPRESSION STALKS SNOOKER

World champion Ronnie O’Sullivan is keen to help snooker confront its mental health malady during the UK’s third national lockdown. O’Sullivan has battled depression throughout his life and is not surprised to discover a number of players opening up about their own experiences of the illness during such a bleak time for society.

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BY DESMOND KANE

Amid potting black balls, the black dog of depression is never far from the darkened domains of the professional snooker table. During the global coronavirus pandemic and the ongoing onset of a third national lockdown in the UK prior to Christmas, the old green baize has been disturbed by some despairing comments from some of its leading figures about a familiar incurable gloom affecting the human condition.

Former world champions Mark Selby and Shaun Murphy and world semi-finalist Gary Wilson have all opened up in recent weeks about a sense of personal despair blighting their mental health.

Their revelations come after the former German Masters winner Martin Gould – who lost 9-8 to Selby in an epic European Masters final in September – explained how he almost quit the sport before the UK’s first lockdown last March after seeking medical help because “I felt mentally and physically drained” in fighting his inner turmoil.

Selby revealed during the Masters that he contemplated suicide as a teenager after the premature death of his father David when he was only 16. He continues to take medication to help him cope.

“When people are going through depression it’s very tough and times like this don’t make it any easier because you’re locked in your house and you have so much time to think about stuff,” said the former world number one in an interview with Eurosport.

Ronnie O’Sullivan has always spoken openly and candidly about the importance of mental health and physical well-being having faced bigger challenges in confronting himself than any opponent he has met during a gilded 29-year career that brought him a sixth world title last August.

Ronnie about depression tweet

He is keen to use his own personal experience of anguish by providing help, support and advice on the best way to cope with the illness via his social media platforms.

“I thought can we do some stuff to help people by putting a few videos online,” said O’Sullivan. “Just all sorts of stuff and we’re looking to produce a lot more content and channel it into a certain area where I have an interest.

“If you feel like you can help someone, it’s great you can do it from a point of view where I can actually enjoy it and have something to give back.

“I understand a bit about that side of mental health if you like, and that is definitely something I’m passionate about.

I DON’T THINK IT’S HEALTHY TO BE IN A ROOM HITTING BALLS FOR FOUR, FIVE AND SIX HOURS. THAT’S WHAT SNOOKER PLAYERS GENERALLY DO.

“Most people go down the club, have a laugh and chat with their mates while they are playing, but when it becomes a job you don’t talk.

“You just keep quiet, concentrate and stay in that bubble for as long as you can. I just think that’s not healthy in general to do that day in, day out.”

O’Sullivan checked into a hospital for several days in 2016 suffering from exhaustion after lashing out in a dressing room after a 10-7 win over David Gilbert in the first round of the World Championship.

The record 37-times ranking event winner is not alone in suffering the loneliness of the long-distance potter. It is an affliction the game’s greatest player has described as “snooker depression” during a gloriously successful but wildly undulating rise to the summit of his sport. It is an ailment which is instantly recognisable to several of his fellow professionals.

“I’ve got no motivation to play snooker, to get out of bed, I’m struggling to see a purpose or an end goal,” said the 2019 world semi-finalist Gary Wilson during the Championship League earlier this month. “I don’t know what the experts would say, but it sounds like depression and that’s what I’ve been going through.”

Apart from the World Championship in Sheffield last August, snooker has been shunted behind closed doors at the Marshall Arena next to the MK Dons football ground.

Murphy, the 2005 world champion, admits the lockdown took a heavy toll on him as he battled weight gain without the oxygen of his daily practice routine from a sport that has found itself marooned in Milton Keynes to enable players to earn a living amid constant Covid-19 testing and isolating in hotel rooms since last June.

“When we did return, we were trapped in a hotel in Milton Keynes, I just really struggled with it. I didn’t go and see a doctor or anything, but I would say I was borderline suffering with depression really. I was very low,” he said.

O’Sullivan enjoys running for fun to keep his mental compass pointing in the right direction, but feels the solitary existence of a snooker player is detrimental to achieving harmony away from the table.

“At least in football, you have your mates to lean on,” commented O’Sullivan. “They know when you are not having a good time and know what to say to pick you up.

“In some team sports, they actively seek out different players because everyone complements each other, but in snooker you don’t get that.

“Even in golf, you get to have a caddie and if you choose the right person, they can have an influence on how your mental state is and how your mood is.
“In snooker, you don’t get that, so that is why I find it really challenging.

FOR A LOT OF THE SNOOKER PLAYERS, I CAN UNDERSTAND THE PROBLEMS BECAUSE IT’S NOT THE HEALTHIEST OF WAYS TO SPEND YOUR TIME. I’VE HAD TO MELLOW A BIT TO KEEP PLAYING AND BECOME A BIT PHILOSOPHICAL TO KEEP MY SANITY, BUT NOT EVERYBODY IS IN THAT BOAT.”

O’Sullivan admits in the past he would accept a low mental state as a natural by-product of his desire to win trophies, but believes he has had to curtail his own expectations to cope.

He has been helped by the sports psychiatrist Steve Peters since 2011, winning three of his six world titles over the past decade after working closely with the Middlesbrough-born professor, author of the 2012 book The Chimp Paradox, which has sold over one million copies.

The toughest frame in snooker appears to be building a positive frame of mind that can buffet the mental storms that rage. Sportsmen should not define themselves by material success in their respective fields.

Are you a positive person who can motivate others?” said Peters. “Are you kind? Do you have integrity? If you are measuring success against your values – rather than what car you own or how much you earn – then building self-esteem is in your own hands.”

O’Sullivan feels that not every player can treat success and failure the same in trying to justify their self-worth to the wider world.

“Everybody is at different stages of their careers,” he explained. “When you are in your pomp, and getting victories, trophies and are at number one you don’t mind taking the snooker depression because you think I’m getting rewarded for it.

BUT IF YOU ARE PUTTING THAT EFFORT IN AND AREN’T GETTING ANYTHING BACK, GETTING BEATEN IN THE FIRST, SECOND AND THIRD ROUNDS ALL THE TIME, AND IT’S STILL LEAVING YOU FEELING LIKE S***, IT’S A LOT HARDER TO TAKE AND HANDLE.

“So what you do? Do you become philosophical? So it’s like a self-preservation thing, but with that you probably lose that intensity.

“Rather than play with the attitude it’s life-and-death, you think if you win, you win, if you lose, you lose, it doesn’t really matter.

“But then if you don’t play with the attitude that it’s life-and-death, are you really committed to wanting it as bad as the other guy, possibly?

IF SOMETHING IS HURTING BAD, AS LONG AS THE REWARD IS GOOD ENOUGH, I DON’T MIND HURTING, BUT AS LONG AS THE REWARD DOESN’T JUSTIFY THE HURT, YOU THINK, ‘HOLD ON, I’M NOT UTILISING MY TIME IN THE RIGHT WAY’.

“For me, I’ve had to get a bit more philosophical because I’m not winning as much as I used to. Why would I want to hurt after putting all that effort in? It’s all about getting the right balance really and how to approach it.”

O’Sullivan has consulted the six-times world champion Steve Davis on how he managed to cope with the perception of failure when Stephen Hendry usurped him as snooker’s dominant force in the 1990s.

Davis recovered from trailing O’Sullivan 8-4 to lift his third Masters in 1997, but the last of his 28 ranking event victories came two years earlier at the 1995 Welsh Open, 21 years before he retired from playing the sport.

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“When I spoke to Davis, he said to me once the 10 years when Hendry came on the scene and began dominating were the worst 10 years of his life because he was trying to find a way to compete with Hendry,” said O’Sullivan.

“It took him 10 years to finally give up, and I think once he gave up in his mind, he started to enjoy it again.

“He would turn up, hit a few balls, get the odd result and win a tournament. He was just as happy with his defeats as he was with his wins. You end up not getting as disappointed if you lose, but don’t get as excited when you win.

“You flick that switch off. You detach emotionally from wanting it so bad. By doing that, you don’t get fired up like you used to which is like a self-preservation thing. You don’t get the joys of winning.

WHEN I WON THE WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP, I WASN’T OVER THE MOON. I THOUGHT, ‘OKAY, THAT WAS NICE, I’VE SURPRISED MYSELF,’ BUT IT WASN’T LIKE THE OTHER FIVE TIMES WHEN I WANTED IT SO BADLY.

“It’s a really fine line to work out what approach you take to it.”

Desmond Kane

WHAT SNOOKER PLAYERS HAVE SAID ABOUT MENTAL HEALTH

MARK ALLEN, 2018 MASTERS CHAMPION

Some days I wake up and I just can’t be bothered, I don’t have the motivation to do anything. It does get very lonely when you’re looking at the four walls of a hotel room for most of the year. It can be a great life, but it can also be tough and I suspect there are others secretly battling away with this, feeling they have to deal with it on their own as I did for a long time.”

GRAEME DOTT, 2006 WORLD CHAMPION

As far as my depression is concerned, it is something I will probably have to live with for the rest of my life, but I recognise the warning signs now and know when it is time to go back to the doctor and ask for more tablets.

MARTIN GOULD, 2016 GERMAN MASTERS CHAMPION

I didn’t want to be there. I just turned up and thought I’d get the match out of the way. I had no expectation of winning, and I thought to myself: ‘I can’t keep doing this’. I would have been more than happy to drop off the tour, give up playing on the main tour and concentrate on playing some seniors stuff later on after giving myself a year or two to get back to normal.”

SHAUN MURPHY, 2005 WORLD CHAMPION

Some of the comments on social media are just vile. I often wonder how we got into this body shaming culture, when did we start bullying each other about the way we look? I wanted to do something about it. I decided on New Year’s Day that I would start highlighting people saying these things. I’m going to start calling it out when they are vicious and bullying you. If you aren’t mentally strong, these things can have a real knock-on effect. We’ve seen some really high profile celebrities take their own life. It is awful really.

MARK SELBY, 2014, 2016 AND 2017 WORLD CHAMPION

When I was going through it – and even now, I’m still on the medication to this day – I went to see the professional people and they were telling me to do things that you enjoy and try to keep your mind active. But it’s difficult when you go through times like this because the things you do enjoy you cannot go and do. The only thing you can do is speak to the professional people, speak to your family and cry for help and get them to help you as well.

GARY WILSON, 2019 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP SEMI-FINALIST

I’m just totally gone, including snooker. I can’t play at all. I feel the worst I’ve ever felt and can’t see a way back anymore. I let John (Higgins) back in and apologised for the foul as he was plumb in. All I could do. First world problems. Although I do feel depressed generally and I’m not one, as many will know, to play on stuff like that or use them words lightly.

 

And that’s all top players speaking out here. You have to wonder what those who struggle to earn a living, just put food on the table and pay their bills are going through.